Bill Owens was named just the third executive producer in the history of the venerable “60 Minutes,” capping off a period of uncertainty at the long-running newsmagazine and kicking off a new era at CBS News.
Owens has been serving as the leader of the program during an interim period, and his ascension to the top role comes as CBS News is about to get a new president, Susan Zirinsky. Owens has been the executive editor of the program, and CBS executives have been impressed with his handling of the show in the 2018-2019 season. Under Owens’ aegis, “60 Minutes” has placed an emphasis not only on deeply reported pieces but also on nabbing interviews with news-makers and politicians in the midst of breaking events.
Tanya Simon, a senior producer at “60 Minutes,” is expected to take on a new, elevated role at the program, according to a person familiar with the matter.
He replaces Jeff Fager, the former executive producer of the show, who was ousted in September of last year after sending a threatening text to a CBS News reporter who was working on a story about allegations made against him about harassment and tolerating abusive behavior at the show. Fager has denied the claims.
The move is a vote of confidence in Owens’ abilities. “60 Minutes” is one of the flagship media properties of CBS Corp.,and not to be tinkered with lightly. Though the show has evolved with the decades, it carries with it a history and gravitas that few TV-news properties can match. What’s more, the program has proved over many seasons that it can hold a chunk of the audience that tunes in to CBS to watch football on Sunday afternoons and then funnel them to primetime selections. “God Friended Me,” a freshman CBS series that airs after “60 Minutes” this season, was recently renewed for a second cycle.
Owens called being named to the new role “an inspiring responsibility and a privilege,” in a prepared statement and added, “I am honored to work alongside the best journalists in the business who cover the most important stories from around the world. I promise that will never change.”
He will report to Zirinsky, who, before she was named to replace David Rhodes as president of CBS News, starting in March, was also considered a contender to lead the program. She said that Owens “has led the broadcast to some of its most important and timely journalism these past few months, during one of its most crucial periods.,” in a statement. “We are fortunate to be able to put such a talented veteran in charge of this iconic program. I am confident that with Bill and the seasoned team of journalists involved in this broadcast you will see more of the kind of work that’s made ’60 Minutes’ the most-watched news program in America.”
Owens had been executive editor of the show since June 2008, and has helped guide the program editorially while managinga staff of reporters and editors. He has supervised and helped shape nearly 1,000 stories on the show. In the first broadcast of this season, he produced a profile of former Beatle Paul McCartney. In 2012, Owens co-executive produced and launched “60 Minutes Sports,” a monthly sports-focused edition of the show that ran five seasons on CBS-owned cable-outlet Showtime.
He joined the newsmagazine’s senior staff as senior broadcast producer in 2007 after working in a similar role at “CBS Evening News.” He has produced many segments for correspondent Scott Pelley, and first joined the show in 2003, after working at “60 Minutes II.” Previously, Owens was the CBS News senior White House producer, and was. Owens was the anchor producer for Paula Zahn and Harry Smith when they anchored a previous edition of “CBS This Morning.”